Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson is a well-known TV personality whose education and experience in physics have qualified him to make pronouncements of great weight in the area of --as you might guess--astrophysics. While his background in economics may be somewhat obscure, one thing he said recently at a press conference held at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan can be taken to the bank! “Everything we know about science and technology,” he said, “tells us that they are the engines of the future economies. They are the seeds of tomorrow’s growth of wealth. I’m not going to twist your arm to get you to like science, but I don’t have to twist your arm to make you like money. If you don’t want to die poor you should invest in STEM.”
For some reason, Tyson’s admonition to prevent poverty reminds me of a scene in Romeo and Juliet. Romeo’s love life has gone terribly wrong. Romeo wants to kill himself with poison. Apparently, some apothecary from Mantua makes the best poison in Italy but won’t sell it because it is against the law in his city. (Kinda makes you wonder why else would he make it?) Anyway, Romeo convinces the Apothecary by appealing to his Greed:
Art thou so bare and full of wretchedness,
And fear’st to die? Famine is in thy cheeks.
Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes.
Contempt and beggary hangs upon thy back.
The world is not thy friend nor the world’s law.
The world affords no law to make thee rich.
Then be not poor, but break it, and take this.
The ‘this’ of course is a big handful of money. Now Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson doesn’t want us to take poison, either as individuals or as a nation. We don’t even have to do anything illegal. All we have to do to die rich is invest in stem education and research. He believes that this will not only keep our country strong but it will keep our children and our children’s children from dying poor.
Oh, and for those of you out there that think it doesn’t matter if you die rich or poor, here are a few more lines from the Immortal Bard: Says Calpurnia, the wife of Caesar in Julius Caesar,
When beggars die there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.